No One Chooses to Be Uninsured
I'll grant that in a country with 300 million people, absolutes are nearly impossible. Certainly there are some who electively remain uninsured and their reasons for such a choice is rooted in individual circumstance. As in part one of this series of articles, the best that can be said is that most Americans agree that our healthcare system of Corporate Profiteering on levels unseen in the most heinous examples of Corporate Greed is in crisis and must be revised. In this second part, I will demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of uninsured Americans do not choose to be so.
First, let's look at a few established facts.
- Of the 82 million Americans who were uninsured at some point between 2002 and 2003, more than half came from families making below 200 percent of the official poverty line – $37,320.00 for a family of four. Nearly two-thirds of people in families below the poverty line were uninsured.
- In non-partisan surveys of the uninsured in American, nearly six in ten said they were without health coverage because they could not afford it. Another 22 percent said they were uninsured because they were unemployed, their employer didn't offer coverage, or they were employed in several part time positions and were not eligible to receive employer provided coverage. Only 7 percent said they could afford health insurance and chose not to have it.
Second, let's look at a few of those uninsured.
- In Uninsured in America, Harvard researchers interviewed an Idaho hairdresser. She makes $900 a month, working full time, after taxes. The salon she works at offers a health coverage plan that would cost her $200 a month for a $1,000 deductible. She could 'choose' to buy into the offered health insurance but only if she then 'chooses' to try to live on $700 a month. When she cannot make that work – she has rent, utilities, phone, and food to pay for as well as mandatory vehicle insurance and car payments and gas (no big mass transit system in Idaho, folks) – she is classified by our government as 'electing to be uninsured.'
- Chicago actor/writer/teacher Joe Janes tells this story on his blog:
I have two part-time jobs as a teacher – one at a private institution and one that has to follow state regulations on education – and it kind of pisses me off. I love both my jobs…I feel like I make a difference at these jobs, but I can't survive on their income – my girlfriend will attest to that! I'm fine when both are in swing at the same time, but that's the problem with part-time jobs. I only get paid when I work. No vacation days, no sick days, no health insurance, no 401k. And, in my case, no guarantee on the number of classes.
A class can be cancelled at the last minute at either place and the income I planned on for the next few months is gone. Poof! At both places, 80-90% of the faculty is made up of part-time teachers. At one of the places, it looks like they are about to hire more teachers. They take on five to ten new teachers every year anyway as part of a training program, so this is even on top of that.
Joe can certainly 'choose' to get a third job. He can 'choose' to quit teaching altogether and seek a higher paying job. Hell, he can 'choose' to move to Port Clinton, Ohio and get a job as an office drone for a major corporation, but why should he have to make any of those choices? This is the United States of America, the wealthiest nation on the planet, right? If all Joe is 'free' to do is to become part of the slave class for corporations that routinely downsize and outsource to other countries, why not move to 1930's Moscow?
Third, let's look at simple common sense for a moment (I understand that common sense is often avoided in discussions of national healthcare, but why not?).
Eliminating for the moment the scores of healthy, white 20-year olds who believe that they will never get sick or encounter an accident that would require medical care and the religious nutbags who believe they can pray illness and injury away, who, in their right mind, would choose to not be insured if an affordable and reasonable health plan were available? Who, in their right mind, would choose to not be insured if it only cost them an extra couple of bucks come tax time?
The argument that Americans should not have a universal healthcare plan because many of those uninsured 'choose' to be uninsured is an amazing piece of smoke and mirror agit-prop created by those corporations that profit enormously from the current system. And it makes no logical sense as an argument against Universal Healthcare.
NEXT UP: Part Three – The Private Insurance System is Inferior to Universal Healthcare